Hoyer: Republicans Were ‘Absolutely Dead Flat Wrong’ On Taxes In The ’90s — And They’re Still Wrong

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The GOP’s case against returning tax rates on income above $250,000 to Clinton-era levels on Tuesday hit a nerve with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who went on an epic rant declaring the Republican argument a bad case of déjà vu.

At his weekly press briefing, TPM asked Hoyer to respond to Republican leaders’ argument that President Obama’s push to continue only the middle class tax cuts from the Bush era amounts to a small business tax hike that will harm economic growth.

The No. 2 House Democrat said the tax increase will only affect some 3 percent of small businesses and will hardly tank the economy — and then he unloaded on Republicans, recalling that party leaders made a similar case in 1993 against President Clinton’s tax hike.

Very frankly, history shows that to be a fallacious argument. That was the argument they made in 1993 — that we were going to destroy the economy; that deficits were going to explode; that unemployment would skyrocket, and that the stock market would tank.

That’s the argument that [Dick] Armey made. That’s the argument that [Newt] Gingrich made. That’s the argument that [Tom] Delay made. That’s the argument that every one of their people made. Every one of them. To a person. Unanimously.

They were dead flat wrong.

Exactly the opposite happened. The stock market went up 226 percent; we balanced the budget for 4 years in a row; we didn’t borrow an additional dime; we didn’t increase the debt. In the last 4 years of the Clinton administration we ended up with a $62.9 billion surplus — the only administration in your lifetime … that ended up with a surplus.

They were absolutely dead flat wrong. They continue, however, unabashedly, and undeterred, in making an argument which has proven to be dead flat wrong.

Hoyer sought to remove any doubt that he and other Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), agree with the President that the income threshold for extending the tax breaks should be $250,000 and not $1 million. He characterized the earlier proposal for a $1 million threshold as a strategic move to illustrate the GOP’s tax obstinacy, rather than a policy position.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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